Sabbath School Lesson 26 - Believers and the Authorities

Please read the Missionary Report for
Establishing Headquarters below

Sabbath, June 30, 2018

“… It is our duty in every case to obey the laws of our land, unless they conflict with the higher law which God spoke with an audible voice from Sinai, and afterward engraved on stone with His own finger. ‘I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people.’ He who has God’s law written in the heart will obey God rather than men, and will sooner disobey all men than deviate in the least from the commandment of God. God’s people, taught by the inspiration of truth, and led by a good conscience to live by every word of God, will take His law, written in their hearts, as the only authority which they can acknowledge or consent to obey. The wisdom and authority of the divine law are supreme.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 361.

An institution of divine origin and its purpose

1. In principle, who established government as an institution? Therefore, what is our responsibility to it? 

Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.

“The original apostasy began in a disbelief and denial of the truth. We are to fix the eye of faith steadfastly upon Jesus. When the days come, as they surely will, in which the law of God is made void, the zeal of the true and loyal should rise with the emergency, and should be the more warm and decided, and their testimony should be the more positive and unflinching. But we are to do nothing in a defiant spirit, and we shall not if our hearts are fully surrendered to God. [Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1 quoted.]” –Special Testimony for Our Ministers (A01a) (1892), pp. 10, 11.

“Many laws will be enacted for the government of nations, calculated to oppress; and old laws that have practically become of none effect, will be resurrected. We need to move forward in our work understandingly and in faith, under the wise generalship of Jesus Christ. A great work is to be done for the Master in proclaiming the last message of mercy to our world, and we are dependent upon authorities and powers to find passage from one end of the world to another, and as long as we are dependent upon the powers that be, we must not divorce ourselves from them, for this is a worldwide message.” –This Day with God, p. 250.

2. For what purpose is all government established? What is its function?

Romans 13:3, 4 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

“Rulers are God’s servants, and they are to serve their time as His apprentices. It is for their good that they faithfully follow the plain ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ keeping the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment. They are to exercise their powers without partiality and without hypocrisy, refusing to be bought or sold, scorning all bribes, and standing in moral independence and dignity before God. They are not to connive at one act of dishonesty or injustice. They are not to do a base, unjust action themselves, nor to sustain others in acts of oppression. Wise rulers will not permit the people to be oppressed because of the envy and jealousy of those who disregard the law of God…. All need to keep eternity in view, and not to act in such a way that God cannot ratify their judgment in the courts of heaven.” –Review and Herald, October 1, 1895.

The Christian’s responsibility

3. In addition to obedience and submission, what responsibility do Christians have to the government? Who should they include in their prayers so they may live in peace and quiet? 

Romans 13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

1 Peter 2:17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

1 Timothy 2:1, 2 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

“We are not required to defy authorities. Our words, whether spoken or written, should be carefully considered, lest we place ourselves on record as uttering that which would make us appear antagonistic to law and order. We are not to say or do anything that would unnecessarily close up our way. We are to go forward in Christ’s name, advocating the truths committed to us.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 69.

4. According to the teaching of Jesus, what should we give to the authorities–what they ask or what belongs to them? How should we behave in the event that they ask for what belongs to God?

Matthew 22:20, 21 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

“David’s power had been given him by God, but to be exercised only in harmony with the divine law. When he commanded that which was contrary to God’s law, it became sin to obey. ‘The powers that be are ordained of God’ (Romans 13:1), but we are not to obey them contrary to God’s law. The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, sets forth the principle by which we should be governed. He says, ‘Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 11:1.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 719.

“We do not know how soon we shall be singled out as not being law-abiding citizens, because the prince of the power of the air is getting possession of the minds of men. We can choose between obeying the powers that be, and dishonoring God, or disobeying the powers that be, and honoring God. If we obey God, His Holy Spirit is resting upon us, and we are not fighting with our own assertions, but with ‘It is written.’ All we have to do is to go back to the fourth commandment. Read the testimony of Jesus Christ that not even a little dot was to be altered, but it is just as written by the finger of God on the tables of stone. We should love the truth because it is truth. It makes every difference whether we are on God’s side of the question or not. You may be summoned to the courts, and in these emergencies think on the Saviour’s promise: ‘I am there.’ We cannot stand on sliding sand, but we can on Christ Jesus. And we can stand there though the whole world may be arrayed against us….

“God has covenanted, and He will be with His people.” –(Manuscript 11, March 28, 1893) The Upward Look, p. 101.

Examples of faithfulness 

5. How did the three Hebrews respond when the Babylonian king asked them to give to a statue what belongs to God alone–worship? What did Daniel do when the law of Medo-Persia forbade him to pray to God and commanded him to pray to the human king?

Daniel 3:14-18; 6:10 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? 15Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? 16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up…. 6:10Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

“If we are forbidden by men to do this work, then we may say, as did the apostles, ‘Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.’ ” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 69.

“The principalities and powers of earth are in bitter revolt against the God of heaven. They are filled with hatred against all who serve Him, and soon, very soon, is to be fought the last great battle between good and evil. The earth is to be the battlefield–the scene of the final contest and the final victory. Here, where for so long Satan has led men against God, rebellion is to be forever suppressed.” –This Day with God, p. 308.

6. In the time of Israel, were the bodyguards obedient to the impious order of King Saul when he commanded them to kill the priests? Was it the duty of the Roman soldiers to obey the Jewish council when Paul was at risk of being killed?

1 Samuel 22:17 And the king said unto the footmen that stood about him, Turn, and slay the priests of the Lord; because their hand also is with David, and because they knew when he fled, and did not show it to me. But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the Lord.

Acts 23:10, 11 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle. 11And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

“But Doeg was a slanderer, and Saul had such a spirit of envy and hatred and murder, that he desired the report to be true. The partial and exaggerated statement of the chief of the herdsmen, was suited for the use of the adversary of God and man. It was presented to the mind of Saul in such a light that the king lost all control of himself, and acted like a madman. If he had but calmly waited until he could have heard the whole story, and had exercised his reasoning faculties, how different would have been the terrible record of that day’s doings!… Like savage beasts who have tasted of blood, so were Saul and Doeg.” –Signs of the Times, September 21, 1888.

“One of the most deplorable things upon the earth is the fact that there are passionate governors and unjust judges. They forget that they are under the authority of the great Governor, the all-wise God, and that He is above every ruler, prince, governor, or king.” –Review and Herald, October 1, 1895.

Important guidance for us 

7. What principle was shown in the answer given by the apostles to the Jewish authorities who forbade them to speak in Jesus’ name? How will the Christian act when the government commands him to do something that is contrary to God’s law?

Acts 4:18-20; 5:27-29 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard…. 5:27And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. 29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

“But what has been the course of God’s servants in ages past? When the disciples preached Christ and Him crucified, after His resurrection, the authorities commanded them not to speak any more nor to teach in the name of Jesus. ‘But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.’ They continued to preach the good news of salvation through Christ, and the power of God witnessed to the message. The sick were healed, and thousands were added to the church. ‘Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.’ ” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 713.

“[Matthew 23:34, 35, 29 quoted.] ‘The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him. When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.’ ” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 72.

For additional study

“We are to go forward quietly, and when our way is apparently blocked in one direction we are to make no condemnation of the powers that be, for in thus doing we are teaching other powers how to work to hedge up our way. We are not to stir up opposing elements or provoke retaliation or revenge. The climax will come soon enough. It is already stealing on as a thief in the night. And we can speak Bible truth which will not set opposing influences at work.” –(Manuscript 90, August 29, 1893) This Day with God, p. 250.

“There is a prospect before us of a continued struggle, at the risk of imprisonment, loss of property, and even of life itself, to defend the law of God, which is made void by the laws of men. In this situation worldly policy will urge an outward compliance with the laws of the land, for the sake of peace and harmony. And there are some who will even urge such a course from the Scripture: ‘Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers…. The powers that be are ordained of God.’ Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 712.

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Missionary Report
for Establishing Headquarters

To be read on Sabbath, June 30, 2018

The Special Sabbath School Offering
will be gathered
on Sabbath, July 7, 2018

In Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria
and unto the uttermost part of the earth

We read in Mark 16:15: “And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” This commission was carried out with great intensity only after the apostle Paul was called into the Master’s service. As a result, by the middle of the second century A.D., the Christian church was predominantly Gentile.

Following the tradition of the early church, in the last ten years, with the support of the believers all around the world, the church has reached approximately 130 countries with the solemn Reformation message. According to the reports of the United Nations, there are 195 sovereign nations in the world, of which 193 are registered as members of the U.N. Following the footsteps of Paul, we also need to work aggressively to proclaim the message of Jesus throughout the world.

The Special Sabbath School Offering to be collected next Sabbath is dedicated to numerous projects to establish, repair, and operate headquarters worldwide. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8.

This offering is to be used for the urgent need for the General Conference to purchase or to assist unions and fields in obtaining headquarters facilities. In addition, the offering will be used to replenish those Special Sabbath School Offerings funds that were overspent to acquire such headquarters facilities. This special situation arises primarily in new countries when their governments require religious organizations to own property before they can register and operate. Despite the fact that in some countries we do not yet have such property, God has blessed the work with many baptisms.

In addition, sometimes established headquarters buildings are damaged in disasters and require essential repairs or restoration. There are also certain fields and unions that have headquarters facilities that were acquired with donations in the past but now are required to register them in the name of the church to secure them for the future. This costs money, and these fields and unions have been waiting, because they are unable to raise the money for the legal procedures. “What blessings would be meted out to the churches that help in this way, and what love on the part of the poorer churches, as they realized that they were watched over for good! And with this help freely and cheerfully rendered would come enlarged views of Christian helpfulness and duty.” –Review and Herald, July 21, 1891. 

When King Solomon appealed to the people of Israel for financial support, their response was unbelievable. God’s chosen people on earth showed their gratitude to Him in their great generosity. “God Himself originates the plans for the advancement of His work, and He has provided His people with a surplus of means, that when He calls for help, they may cheerfully respond. If they will be faithful in bringing to His treasury the means lent them, His work will make rapid advancement. Many souls will be won to the truth, and the day of Christ’s coming will be hastened.” –Review and Herald, July 14, 1904.

The first two chapters of the book of Haggai describe the Israelites’ preparations for the rebuilding of the temple. God blessed those who helped His cause on earth with a willing heart. And in the wilderness, when it was time for the tabernacle to be built, God told Moses: “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take My offering.” Exodus 25:2.

“Our people are not to wait for more appeals, but are to lay right hold of the work, making those things which appear impossibilities, possibilities. Let each one ask himself, Has not the Lord entrusted me with means for the advancement of His cause?” –Review and Herald, July 14, 1904.

 

Douglas Francis
Outgoing General Conference Treasurer